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Mind your Thoughts, not my Clothes

By Analise Bruno

Photo by Avani Mitra

There is this long-standing notion in society that inexplicably links a woman’s respectability to how conservatively they dress. Although, for one part, modesty has respectable roots in religion— typically to promote ideals allied with holiness and purity. The other perspective to this norm is bound to a lengthy history of female oppression.

However, the primary issue with dressing conservatively has nothing to do with whether women choose to show more or cover up - choice is quintessential to this argument as a matter of fact - but rather that they get policed no matter what they wear.

If you were to take a step outside onto the busy streets of Commonwealth Ave, you would probably find yourself captivated by the array of different styles and aesthetics wandering past you. Looking to your right, you may find a girl in a miniskirt, another in jeans, and maybe one in a crop top. In that same glance, you may also find a woman in a high-neck sweater, or perhaps a long skirt.

The point is, there is nothing wrong with wanting to dress more conservatively whether it be for religious reasons, cultural tradition, or just personal preference. The complexity of this controversy is that society continues to reupholster the idea that women HAVE to dress this way to be respected.

Take the new amendments imposed by the Missouri House of Representatives for example; their recent tightening of the dress code allocates that female lawmakers are no longer allowed to show their arms on the floor. Garments like apron dresses and sleeveless blouses, which have been modified into a formal business staple in cases of warm weather, are prohibited — unless, of course, the person wearing it wants to throw a blazer on top.

What initially prompted this rule change was concerns over the remaining professional atmosphere. However, to no one’s surprise, the men's dress code was left untouched.

This logic is ironic because it insinuates that the “distraction” created by exposed ankles, legs, or arms is directly the fault of women. In essence, it equates men to senseless animals with no control over their sexual desires.

In the same breath, it should be noted that it wasn’t until 2019 that Congress voted to permit religious head coverings on the floor. The dilemma has nothing to do with how much or how little women show off themselves. What this all boils down to is how society is constantly looking for new ways to control women — even if they have to reach into their wardrobes.

Much like we aren't supposed to judge books by their cover, we should refrain from judging women by theirs. There is a time and place for everything, and this sentiment extends to the world of fashion. However, what we as a collective need to affirm to women everywhere is that their value as an individual extends far beyond the clothes they wear.

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